Lots of interesting tidbits in this story in the Pitt News from earlier this week: Drivers' counts don't always add up
. The main point has to do with some data compiled by students watching drivers count riders boarding for free with their Pitt ID's and supposed overcounting of those riders. While that is an important point in itself, it's worth noting that the Pitt-Port Authority contract is fixed price so in the short run any overcounting does not directly generate any more revenue for the Port Authority. I would still hope all is being done for accurate collection of ridership data. Overall the story seems to come out much more positive for the Port Authority than the headline would lead you to believe. Assuming the ridership numbers are broadly correct, the story documents how the deal allowing Pitt students and staff (so as disclosure, that would include me) to ride for free has generally increased ridership among those eligible. The most telling factoid quoted in the piece:
"reduction of the Port Authority service hours have made Pitt riders a much greater proportion of total ridership. Pitt riders now make up more than 8.5 percent of total rides in the system".
So if students are continuing to ride in equal or greater numbers but overall ridership is down, who is literally being kicked off the bus? and 8.5% are from Pitt!
That is not 8.5% students across the city, that is 8.5% for Pitt alone. Granted it's a big institution, but still just one institution. What if you add in all the other students using the system, many with passes of their own, seniors who are covered by the state funded free fare system, and other groups I am probably unaware of... Remember when during the debates over route cutbacks the one big factoid that many liked to throw at the Port Authority was how low their percentage of revenues collected at the fare box is compared to some other systems. Well, if you have a disproportionate concentration of seniors and students whose fares are covered by other means, is it surprising that Pittsburgh would have a comparably lower proportion of farebox generated revenue? It just is amazing that in one sentence you will hear so many people tout what a great place this is that there are so many students here attracted by quality educational institutions, but then overlook some of the costs that such a concentration of students will generate. You can't really have it both ways in the end.